Your BBQ Gun Partner? El Paso Saddlery Holsters
April 12th, 2023
6 minute read
I’m an unabashed American history buff with a focus on everything American or pre-American, from 1760 through 2001. As such, I have a keen interest in the history of the Old West, with a focus on law enforcement from 1860 through 2019. So, when I had the chance to write a piece about the El Paso Saddlery Co. leather goods and Texas style “Barbecue Guns,” I jumped at the chance!
About El Paso Saddlery Company
If you also are interested in the history of the American West — with a focus on period firearms — you should be familiar with El Paso Saddlery. El Paso is the real deal. They’ve been in continuous operation since 1889 and have manufactured holsters and gear for people like outlaw John Wesley Hardin, as well as supplying their 1890-S “Original” Holster for sometimes outlaw, sometimes lawman John Selman — who would later shoot an unsuspecting John Wesley Hardin in the back of the head.
El Paso Saddlery is also the only remaining original American manufacturer of the great 1942 “Tanker” Shoulder rig — which like so many of El Paso’s gear is a piece of still-usable American history. With a background like this (and I’m just scratching the surface here), El Paso was the obvious selection for a holster supplier for a story about Texas “Barbecue Gun.” El Paso also makes fine modern leather gear for concealed and open carry in addition to their historic holsters and rigs.
What Is a Barbecue Gun?
The Texas Rangers are the greatest example of an Old West law enforcement organization with a long history that still exists today. It is still the premier law enforcement organization in the United States. The motto of the Texas Rangers is “One Riot, One Ranger”, which emphasized their rugged individualism and ability to take control of dangerous situations and people.
Over time, the Rangers began adding various embellishments to their personally purchased duty guns. Personalizing of handguns occurred via engraving, plating and the addition of fancy grips made from all types of high-end materials. Guns given this treatment sent a message to lawbreakers that the owner of these guns was indeed a pistolero.
Back in my day, any cop who carried a 1911 .45 instead of a .38 revolver was viewed in a similar light. Convicted criminals have testified that they wouldn’t take on a cop armed with a 1911 pistol. Texas Ranger 1911 pistols likely compounded that perception.
The Texas Ranger’s 1911’s and various sixguns continued to evolve in terms of custom touches by being worn openly at barbecues, parties, official functions (including court) and to church on Sundays. Visible carry at such functions creates competition among the wearers. You can see examples of highly customized Ranger 1911’s and their other guns at texasranger.org. Not all the embellishments were merely decorative — many of the upgrades enhanced shootability. But they all expressed the personality of the individual Ranger.
As I explored the topic of Barbecue Guns, I found the concept was still a popular one — but also a potentially expensive one. While you can buy Barbeque Guns at very exorbitant prices, you can also create a perfectly fine one for far less than that — and carry it in the correct fancy leather gear.
What Guns to Use?
I still had a pair of 9mm Springfield Armory Garrison 1911’s on hand — one in blue and one stainless — that I had tested for another publication. I felt that they would serve as fine exemplars of basic “Barbecue Guns” because of their handsome finishes.
In order to dress things up a bit, I ordered a pair of fancy gold-and-silver plated grips from Amazon for $50 to mount on the blued Garrison. Adding them gave the blued Garrison a decided push in the Barbecue Gun direction. The gold center area on both the right and left grips contains a rendition of the original military Springfield Armory emblem — which was quite fitting. While some may consider these particular grips a bit “showy”, I think they exude the spirit of the traditional Texas Ranger Barbecue Guns without adding much in price. And when the barbecue or party is over, the grips are easily removed if the gun needs to return to duty.
The stainless Garrison’s factory checkered wood grips looked good enough that I thought they would stand on their own. However, I added a set of gold-color grip screws that I also ordered from Amazon to add just a bit of flash to the all-stainless Garrison. They really add a classy personal touch.
The Right Holsters
I had to select just the right Western-style holster to go with the Springfield Armory Garrisons. El Paso’s 1930 Austin holster immediately caught my attention. El Paso describes the Austin as “a classic Texas Ranger holster that demonstrates the link between Western and modern holster designs”. Austin is a drop-dead gorgeous holster that is perfect for packing and protecting a Texas-style Barbecue Gun or any other handgun that deserves special attention.
The Austin is formed from a single piece of leather that forms the holster pouch and the full back flap. Unlike the El Paso Model 1890 Original Holster, the back flap is not exposed beyond the edge of the holster pouch, making it much more compact overall and more modern looking.
The interior of the holster pouch and back flap are suede lined. The suede lining on the interior of the holster protects guns with fine surface finishes — it’s a must for blue-finished handguns as well as nickel-finished guns.
The 1930 Austin secures 1911’s and double-action revolvers using a button retention strap with a choice of brass or silver color snaps. Austins for single-action revolvers can be had with a more traditional hammer thong if desired. In addition to its retention capability, the button strap for 1911 pistols also serves as an extra safety device for cocked and locked 1911’s since it rests on the rear of the slide between the cocked hammer face and the firing pin. For revolvers, the button strap rests behind the hammer to provide retention only.
Robert Taylor of El Paso generously rushed two sample 1930 Austin holsters to me for testing. One is russet brown with beautiful floral carving and a gold snap. The other Austin is black, with a traditional basketweave pattern and silver snap. I couldn’t have found a better choice.
Have a Barbecue
The combination of the Springfield Garrison pistols and the beautifully rendered El Paso holsters look absolutely great together, and make a very functional team. The El Paso workmanship is really stunning — especially because it is all done by hand and will last a lifetime with proper care.
For our photo shoot at my buddy Bret Roger’s house, I also brought along a floral carved El Paso Model 1942 Tanker holster set up for a single-action .357 Magnum revolver I own — which is also a beautiful and very traditional combo. Bret’s wife Shalene and daughter Faith assisted in the photo shoot.
Bret and I are planning a Texas-type barbecue in the near future for a few friends who will wear their best shootin’ irons. Part of the barbecue will involve a simple “playing card” pistol shooting match for a prize at Bret’s backyard range.
The 1930 Austin holster deserves a solid gunbelt to go with it and, of course, El Paso Saddlery has a great selection available. While the Austin rides too low to be considered a concealment holster, it definitely makes a splendid holster for open carry, hunting, sport shooting, or work around a ranch or farm. I found the 1930 Austin also fit my Springfield Armory SA-35 quite nicely as well.
The Austin’s base MSRP is $135. That’s a great price considering the hand-crafted American quality from a firm that actually provided rigs for use in the Old West. I’m certainly happy with mine!
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